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Learning new songs

GUEST,Andy 11 Jan 19 - 03:12 PM
The Sandman 11 Jan 19 - 03:17 PM
Gurney 12 Jan 19 - 02:22 AM
GUEST 12 Jan 19 - 03:32 AM
Andy7 12 Jan 19 - 06:25 PM
Andy7 12 Jan 19 - 06:33 PM
FreddyHeadey 12 Jan 19 - 07:47 PM
Ebbie 13 Jan 19 - 02:56 AM
GUEST,Kris 13 Jan 19 - 09:44 AM
FreddyHeadey 13 Jan 19 - 02:09 PM
r.padgett 13 Jan 19 - 02:24 PM
GUEST,Fylde player 13 Jan 19 - 03:57 PM
GUEST 13 Jan 19 - 04:57 PM
GUEST,Nick Dow 13 Jan 19 - 07:04 PM
Gurney 13 Jan 19 - 07:44 PM
Andy7 14 Jan 19 - 01:59 AM
John P 14 Jan 19 - 11:32 AM
GUEST,I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry 15 Jan 19 - 02:34 PM
Big Al Whittle 15 Jan 19 - 03:44 PM
GUEST 16 Jan 19 - 12:06 AM
GUEST,JMB 16 Jan 19 - 12:07 AM
Big Al Whittle 16 Jan 19 - 08:06 AM
KarenH 16 Jan 19 - 09:45 AM
GUEST 18 Jan 19 - 02:15 PM
The Sandman 18 Jan 19 - 04:20 PM
sharyn 18 Jan 19 - 05:42 PM
Big Al Whittle 19 Jan 19 - 12:59 AM
r.padgett 19 Jan 19 - 03:07 AM
The Sandman 19 Jan 19 - 04:12 AM
GUEST,Observer 19 Jan 19 - 07:19 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Jan 19 - 09:41 AM
r.padgett 19 Jan 19 - 10:18 AM
Anne Neilson 19 Jan 19 - 10:38 AM
GUEST 20 Jan 19 - 04:48 PM
Big Al Whittle 20 Jan 19 - 06:11 PM
Jim Carroll 20 Jan 19 - 07:19 PM
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Subject: Learning new songs
From: GUEST,Andy
Date: 11 Jan 19 - 03:12 PM

When you want to learn a few new songs what's the most effective way?
Should you try to learn one at a time or do a mix of two or three.In other words does it pay off to focus entirely on one or does variety help the process?


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 Jan 19 - 03:17 PM

focus on one


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: Gurney
Date: 12 Jan 19 - 02:22 AM

Learn them when you're young.
Pick songs that have an abiding quality of tune.
Learn them by watching as well as listening, if you can.

I've found that I have filled up the allocated space in my brain, and it is now almost impossible to get a new song in without squeezing an old one out.

It used to be so easy.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Jan 19 - 03:32 AM

Thanks Sandmam and Burney.
An abiding quality of tune- I like it.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: Andy7
Date: 12 Jan 19 - 06:25 PM

I've found the very best way to learn a song, is to play it over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

Then make yourself a cup of tea.

Then go back to the song, and play it over and over and over and over and over ...


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: Andy7
Date: 12 Jan 19 - 06:33 PM

(For 'play' read 'sing', of course, for an unaccompanied song.)


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: FreddyHeadey
Date: 12 Jan 19 - 07:47 PM

My preferred method is to learn the last verse then add the others, working back to the first.
Writing it out a couple of times has been good too.

A recent BBC programme mentioned that drawing pictures, however simple or abstract, was a good idea.
Also ... walking backwards!
I've not tried that.

Here's a link to the thread with that info
and at the top of that page you'll find several other threads on the subject.

thread.cfm?threadid=60984#3969985


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: Ebbie
Date: 13 Jan 19 - 02:56 AM

I've used a number of different methods. My current one works pretty well for me:

As I play the CD or whatever on the computer I start typing the lyrics. By the time I've repeated the CD enough times to get all the lyrics I have nailed down the tune.

I try to learn just one song at a time. One year when Ginny Hawker and her group were the Folk Festival Guest Artists here I was so enamored of her voice and the songs that I learned 7 songs at one time. I think it took me longer than if I'd done it one at a time and I would certainly have had more restful nights. :)

Speaking of nights, restful and not, when I'm writing my own songs the lyrics run through my brain day and night.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: GUEST,Kris
Date: 13 Jan 19 - 09:44 AM

I consolidate my song learning by lying in bed with my eyes closed and visualising singing and playing (guitar) the song. It seems to work well because it does not have to be in real time so can go back and re-do bits etc. Its not just "singing it in my head" though - its quite concentration-intensive. And sort of imagining the movements of throat and hands as realistically as possible so you build up a bit of muscle memory too.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: FreddyHeadey
Date: 13 Jan 19 - 02:09 PM

And to answer the question (!which I hadn't really read properly...)

I've never contemplated learning two or three songs at the same time. I think it might take me three times as long.
And to be honest I'm never really sure I have learned a song properly till I get to the end of it that particular night.
But I suppose there is usually something at the back of my mind as a potential'next one'.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: r.padgett
Date: 13 Jan 19 - 02:24 PM

Can be a good idea to learn two songs at the same time ~ obviously the main hook for learning is the tunes!

Memory is a strange animal and time can be needed for all to sink in ~ try to remember away from the words ~ go for a walk (take the words) and bring back to memory in all sorts of ways! and times of day

Yes go through the words and make sure you know the words with and without singing out loud and in different verse orders ~ make sure you understand the song and the story

Some times mnemonics can be very useful!

Ray


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: GUEST,Fylde player
Date: 13 Jan 19 - 03:57 PM

Assuming people are learning songs that have caught there attention, after several hearings come away from it and get the words. That way it will have some interpretation from you rather than a copy - no matter if a few mistaken notes. Partly through inability to copy the fiddly guitar bits or vocal gymnastics I just do my way. Some songs attach to me very quickly, some slip through fingers as the lyrics never lodge.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Jan 19 - 04:57 PM

Thanks for all the good suggestions.
I think I struggle more with the tune than the words. I've discovered a few times I don't hear little nuances in the tune and recently I've found it's very easy to slip into a similar tune that I've learned already.Its like I get a mental block so I keep repeating the same mistake and it really slows down my learning.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 13 Jan 19 - 07:04 PM

I do that all the time. The best thing to do is to play the first few notes of the tune on something before you sing the song. (Guitar, Concertina, or voice recorder) it works.
I hardly ever forget words. When I was a kid I learned poetry off by heart, and scripts from the TV/Radio. I can still recite the Radio Ham and the Blood Donor playing all the parts.
The way I learned was to set a path with landmarks in my mind. When I was a kid I used to walk round a carpet. Each corner was a verse from a poem etc. My mother thought I was bonkers, but then so was she. Some sort of association will help you remember, a phrase a mental picture, anything. Once you've learned the song, then the real work begins!


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: Gurney
Date: 13 Jan 19 - 07:44 PM

Oh yes. As Ebbie implied up there, type or write out the lyrics.
They stick much better that way than a print-out does.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: Andy7
Date: 14 Jan 19 - 01:59 AM

Always learn a song from the same page of lyrics. If you make notes/changes, don't reprint/rewrite the page, carry on using the same (messy) page; those distinctive notes and alterations will aid the visual memory.

For long, complicated songs, stick in an instrumental break or two (or if, like me, you can't do anything fancy on the guitar, a couple of hummed lines). This will break the song down into manageable chunks.

With some songs, each verse lends itself easily to creating a separate mental picture for that verse; for example, Paul Simon's 'For Emily', or Phil Ochs's 'Changes'; once you have the pictures, you still have to remember the order of words in each verse, and the order of the verses, but it will be much easier.

Other songs can be trickier. When I learned Elvis's 'Love Me Tender', which has quite simple lyrics but in which each verse and chorus have the same pattern, I made pictures using the key words of each verse: sweet-go (a sweet being thrown away), long-heart (an elongated heart symbol) and dear-mine (a deer looking into a surface mine; originally it was looking down a shaft mine, but I became a bit concerned that my imaginary deer might fall in!).

When performing - whether in public or alone at home - if you forget the words, it's usually worth taking a 'run up' to the forgotten words, restarting either from the line before, or the beginning of the verse. Try that before checking with your written page. (Don't start the whole song again, though; you're more likely then to get stuck in the same place, and if you're singing in public, your listeners may find it a little boring!)


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: John P
Date: 14 Jan 19 - 11:32 AM

Learning one at a time is easiest, of course, but sometimes there are deadlines that require learning a bunch of new music in a short period of time. Just hope you have plenty of time to practice if that's the case.

As Andy7 said, play or sing it over and over and over and over. Muscle memory, including the throat muscles, helps, and deepening the memory grooves in the mind makes the details more readily available for recall.

As r.padgett said, taking a break can help. In fact, it can be essential. The brain keeps short-term memory and long-term memory in different locations. One of the things that happens when we sleep is that the memory in the short-term buffer gets moved to permanent storage. The short-term buffer, like most buffers, gets full and stops adding new material at some point, until it is emptied. Several shorter rehearsals over over a period of days is more effective than one marathon session, especially if you don't follow up the next day.

Imposing a slightly different melody while trying to remember a song is part of the folk process. It's actually a cool thing to do. Enjoy it, and take a bow for creativity. You've made a variant ;^)

John


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: GUEST,I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry
Date: 15 Jan 19 - 02:34 PM

Interleave, learning two or three songs at once, and learn in small, overlapping chunks, in sessions of no more than 20 minutes. The key is frequency of sessions and repeated refreshing. It's vital to allow the brain to forget certain bits, since it will anyway: it's what the brain does with inessential info until it gets the message (through repeated need) that having that info at the ready is important.

By interleaving, even though you might continue doing the same kind of mental work (better to change track entirely), you're allowing the brain to refocus on another segment of material while your subconscious turns over the previous segment. This is more efficient than hammering away at the same song past the point of mental saturation, relying far more on shorter-term memory than on deeper recall. By changing songs, you replace all the contextual cues, like wiping the mental slate.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 15 Jan 19 - 03:44 PM

Make sure you got the first bit right. So right you could sing it being tortured by Satan with a red hot poker, in your sleep, hung upside down with drunks pissing on you. Mind you some gigs are worse than that.

If you get the first bit right. It relaxes the audience. that relaxes you. the more you can relax, the better you can focus on the job in hand.

don't underestimate the effort involved. If you see a good Shakesperian actor,   the secrets of performance are very easily observable. He (or she) knows the words. They know the meaning, and they want to tell you the story, the words tell. They have thought out the verbal flourishes, even the action, they will be doing at the time of the speech. And finally they know the rhythm of the words. that the poetry dictates.

however if you're just singing for fun, rather than money. ....I dunno try and fit it in with watching Pointless.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Jan 19 - 12:06 AM

I do agree on learning a song from the end to beginning. Divide it into sections, and start from the bottom - up. That way, when you're wanting to play the whole song, you'll find it easier. This is also the case for shorter practice times too. Learn it that way then when time comes for the whole song, you got it all.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: GUEST,JMB
Date: 16 Jan 19 - 12:07 AM

Sorry, that unnamed guest above was me, JMB. I am writing this as a guest too. Forgot to reset ma cookie. Sorry.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 16 Jan 19 - 08:06 AM

yes - you always find theres some lines that are - just you! You know you're going to enjoy delivering them, and the effect they will have.
when you get into the song - they are little islands for you to swim for.

Later on, you learn, in well written song, every line has its strength - and its up to you to find that strength - and strut it.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: KarenH
Date: 16 Jan 19 - 09:45 AM

I'll go with the over and over and over and over. Then leave it a bit, a couple of days. Often it will have improved while you left it. Then back to over and over if need be. Then when you still can't do it to your satisfaction, curse a lot and try to find something simpler.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Jan 19 - 02:15 PM

I would agree with those who say play a recorded version over and over and over -- if you're not driving someone crazy, you're probably not playing it enough. If you sing, sing along with the recording as you play it over and over. If you play an instrument, you might consider playing along with the recording as well, with or without an aid like a capo as needed. Playing along or singing along will help you to see when you have gone off the melody or harmony. What you are trying to do is get the words and tune to stick in your head and start playing there of their own free will. Sing whatever bits of your new song you can remember when you are out walking -- somehow walking helps drive things into one's head. Sing it while you are washing dishes -- any repetitive activity will help fix the song. Many people underestimate the amount of repetition needed to get a song into your head. If you learn well from listening, listen a lot. If you learn better from reading and writing type up the words. If you learn better from pictures, draw some while listening or imagine some. Then, once you have learned it, you need to sing, play or perform it regularly, especially if you are over fifty -- if you don't keep it up for awhile, bits of it or all of it will fall away. The longer you have known something, the easier it is to retain it.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 Jan 19 - 04:20 PM

Can be a good idea to learn two songs at the same time ~ obviously the main hook for learning is the tunes!"Padgett
please, explain why it might be a good idea." the main hook for learning is the tune" really?
for me it is the words, if i want to learn an instrumental tune ,yes i learn to sing it, but mostly what attracts me are words, and the learning and remebering of the words is the most difficult process. in over 50 years of singing i don not think i ever had any difficulty remebering tunes of songs.
maybe its yorkshire breeding padgett?


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: sharyn
Date: 18 Jan 19 - 05:42 PM

The GUEST above at 2:15 is me. I just reset my cookie.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 19 Jan 19 - 12:59 AM

Itend to think you should always be in the process of learning at least tw songs. that way you don't lose the facility.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: r.padgett
Date: 19 Jan 19 - 03:07 AM

Right sorry Sandman ~ I find that the tune is an extremely useful hook to aid learning songs ~ poetry was always a problem for learning as such~ and I thought others thought as I do regarding tunes/poems/ and learning ~ I stand corrected!

Tunes believe it or not change with the song and one of the earlier posts did allude to difficulties being experienced with learning new song tunes ~ I agree with that ~

Tunes are of course, certainly for me a must learn before or indeed at the same time as the song lyrics and are vital ~ (well it is a song!!)

Ray


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Jan 19 - 04:12 AM

well if people find itesier learning two songs together at the same time rather than one , then logically the more songs one tries to learn at the same time it must be easier tolearn more, why stick to two why not learn five songs at the same time


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: GUEST,Observer
Date: 19 Jan 19 - 07:19 AM

Stick around Guest Andy there will be loads of new songs to learn re U.S. shutdown, wall, immigration in next to no time - they've got two threads appealing for them running at the moment.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Jan 19 - 09:41 AM

MacColl advised us to absorb the words and tune of the song until we had it of perfectly, then leave it for a period and checking it out occasionally - for about two or three months before we sang it publicly
I have to say I had my doubts at the time but, coming back from not singing for a long time, I'm finding that it now works a treat
When I started to rework my repertoire I found no trouble with the songs I leaned in this way twenty/thirty years ago - I had established them as 'my songs' which is what it should be all about, in my opinion
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: r.padgett
Date: 19 Jan 19 - 10:18 AM

Sandman/Dick your previous comment is daft, lol

But then

Ray


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: Anne Neilson
Date: 19 Jan 19 - 10:38 AM

I'm with others who prefer to start from text (getting any story 'straight' in my head), and step 2 is to get to grips with the tune in a basic version.
I usually sing unaccompanied so I would learn the bones of a tune, often from notation, till I was secure with its shape, where it rose and where it fell -- and all the time ignoring rhythm and/or decoration (which is why I don't like learning from another singer's recording, although I know singers who listen to recordings on endless repeat on long car journeys when learning new repertoire).
And when I have the tune solidly in my head, I turn my attention to the words. I like writing the text out by hand from my source -- a bit like doing lines as a punishment in school? -- and I start fitting text and tune together, which almost certainly involves changes to suit my ear: I may take out, or add, a couple of small words to suit the pulse of the tune; I may put in a wee run of notes to accommodate a line with extra syllables etc.). And after lots of repetitions, I usually rewrite the words in skeleton form so that the key words that sit on the pulse notes of the tune are the only words visible -- and then clutch this aide memoire as I get on with the learning process.
There's no recognisable time scale for this process -- it's just till I feel comfortable with the results. And the first public outing would always be in a small group of like-minded people.

Bottom line is that there's no single Right Way -- I just happen to work best with a system which involves the physical component of writing coupled to my sense of the pulse of the words (which is seldom a strict rhythm).

By the way, I'd love to see someone doing the backwards learning -- starting from the final verse -- described above. Halfway through my 75th year, the very thought of it gave me the heebie-jeebies!


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Jan 19 - 04:48 PM

Thank you so much for this wide list of suggestions.I'm sure there's nothing here I won't find useful.Of course I was hoping somebody would suggest learning more than one at a time, that was why I asked but I like to have stacks of ideas to keep me going. So well done, folks. Ta.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 Jan 19 - 06:11 PM

I can see that Jim, but when you're our age you can't really be sure you'll be here in three or four months.

The knowledge of that, focuses my mind a bit.


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Subject: RE: Learning new songs
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Jan 19 - 07:19 PM

£I can see that Jim, but when you're our age you can't really be sure you'll be here in three or four months."
If you think like that - may as well dig yourself a hole now Al
I'm gonna be here forever
I find that I now enjoy my songs far more than I ever did
You get to a point that you stop pleasing others and just do it because you need to
When I started revisiting my repertoire after a long absence I found I knew songs I hadn't learned but had been swimming around in my memory for decades
Over the last year I've worked-in over a dozen in the last twelve months

Just been working on a dozen Sam Larner tapes and listening to him remember songs he hadn't sung for half a century and singing them through before the the end of the recording session
If an octogenarian can manage that - there's hope for us all
Jim


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